Born of mixed Scottish and Irish heritage and raised in the port town of Oban, Scotland, Aiden O'Rourke shaped a career as a fiddle player and composer that was significantly colored by his deep fascination with the landscape, culture, and traditions of his home country. Brought up on a diet of Irish traditional music played in the family home by his father, he began fiddle lessons at the tender age of eight, studying with several well-respected Highland teachers. His precocious talent was soon refined as he won multiple prizes on the Scottish competition circuit and was touring the U.K., Europe, and North America by the time he was just 14 years old.
Such a comprehensive foundation in traditional music led O'Rourke to join Blazin' Fiddles after moving to Edinburgh, post-university. The band enjoyed considerable success in folk circles, headlining several major festivals at home and abroad, and playing the first night of the BBC Proms in 2005. The headlines garnered by O'Rourke for refusing to join the band for a private performance at Buckingham Palace in 2004 only heightened his credentials as a committed Scottish independence campaigner a decade later. O'Rourke formed the trio Lau in 2005, with singer/guitarist Kris Drever and accordionist Martin Green. Their 2007 debut, Lightweights and Gentlemen, received a great deal of coverage and attracted a lot of new fans outside of the folk genre. The band was named Best Group by the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards no fewer than four times since 2008, and released three more critically acclaimed studio albums, as well as several collaborative EPs. They worked with distinguished guest artists such as Jack Bruce, Jan Garbarek, Trilok Gurtu, and many more. Their 2015 album The Bell That Never Rang -- which takes its title from the city of Glasgow's coat of arms -- was born out of a commission by the Celtic Connections festival to commemorate the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. The album featured the Elysian Quartet and was produced by Joan Wasser, more commonly known as Joan as Police Woman.
O'Rourke's prowess as a composer was also widely recognized. His three solo albums and his 2011 Scots Trad Music Composer of the Year award, as well as the 2014 BBC Radio 2 Folk Musician of the Year award, sit alongside his many compositional commissions as testament to his songwriting proficiency. His 2013 album Hotline was the result of a commission by the PRS for Music Foundation's New Music 20x12 scheme, which sought a piece that linked Argyll to the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Much of the music for the record was recorded inside the chambers of an atomic bomb-proof Cold War-era cable landing station embedded deep in the Argyll cliffs, which once housed the world's first submarine transatlantic telephone cable, used for the Washington-Moscow hotline.
The opening tracks of his 2015 EP Music for Exhibition and Film were written for an installation by environmental artists Dalziel + Scullion, and the latter songs were eventually used for the Yes campaign during the Scottish independence referendum, a cause close to O'Rourke's heart. The second part of the two-EP series, 2016's Imprint, was written and recorded with Anna Meredith, former composer-in-residence with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. ~ Simon Spreyer